March 21, 2023
Part 2 of this article continues the discussion regarding the intersection of the visual arts and AI. The introduction is repeated for context. Part 1 can be found here. Part 3 will be published on March 28. A list of sources and disclaimers will be included in Part 3.
Artificial intelligence (AI) and how it affects the art world have recently captured the attention of the news media. AI has revolutionized many industries, and art is no exception. This relatively new technology has the potential to enhance and augment traditional art-making processes, but it also raises important ethical and philosophical questions about the role of the artist and the value of human creativity. This article explores the pros and cons of AI in art, the shifting nature of artistic authorship, the ethical considerations surrounding the use of AI-generated content, and the history of appropriation in art. Because the article is lengthy, it is split into two parts.
One advantage of AI is it can help artists explore new possibilities and techniques that are difficult or impossible for a human to achieve. For example, AI algorithms can generate unique and complex patterns and compositions beyond the capabilities of most artists. AI can also create digital artworks that are interactive and responsive to their environment, providing new opportunities for audience engagement.
Yet the use of AI in art also raises questions about authorship, copyright laws, fair-use laws, the role of the artist, and the value of human creativity. The idea that AI algorithms use art created by others to generate amalgamation images has led to a debate about the authenticity and value of AI-generated art. For example, how much of the image is truly unique? Are AI artwork and designs able to be copied and used without permission? Who owns the copyright? Some even argue that AI-generated art is fundamentally different from traditional art, as it is created by a machine rather than a human being. Questions, therefore, remain as to whether it is comparable to art created by humans, as well as concerns over the protection of intellectual property and the ability of artists to control and profit from their work.
It is important to recognize that the use of technology in art is not a new phenomenon. Artists have been using technology to augment and enhance their work for centuries, from the printing press to Photoshop. The question of whether AI-generated art can be considered “real” art is not a new one either, as it is similar to debates about the role of the artist and the value of artistic expression that has been happening for centuries.
“Appropriation in art is the use of pre-existing objects or images with minimal transformation applied to them. In the visual arts, to appropriate means to properly adopt, borrow, recycle, or sample aspects (or the entire form) of human-made visual culture. Inherent in our understanding of appropriation is the idea that the new work re-contextualises whatever it borrows. In most cases, the original ‘thing’ remains accessible as the original, without significant change.” (Penner-Howell, 2013)
Pablo Picasso was heavily influenced by the art and culture of other countries and regions, including Africa. One way in which this influence is evident in his artwork is through his use of the aesthetics of African masks.
Picasso was particularly drawn to masks and sculptures of the African peoples of the Congo and Gabon, which he encountered at the Musée de l’Homme in Paris. He was fascinated by the expressive and stylized nature of these works, and he incorporated elements of their aesthetic into his own artwork.
|Artists from left to right: Picasso, African Mask|
For example, Picasso’s 1907 painting Les Demoiselles d’Avignon features figures with elongated noses and angular features reminiscent of African masks. This painting is considered a major turning point in the development of modern art, and it had a significant influence on the art world.
However, Picasso’s use of African masks has been criticized as an example of cultural appropriation, as he was taking elements of African culture and incorporating them into his own work without acknowledging or respecting the cultural context from which they came.
|Duchamp||Factory model urinal|
Another famous example of appropriation is Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain, a ready-made sculpture that consists of a urinal signed with the pseudonym “R. Mutt”. Duchamp’s work was a challenge to traditional notions of art, as it consisted of an ordinary, factory-made object that was presented as a work of art simply by the artist’s intention. It was the first known instance of a “ready-made” artwork. Fountain was initially rejected by the Society of Independent Artists in 1917, but it has since become one of the most iconic and influential artworks of the 20th century, inspiring numerous debates and discussions about the nature of art and the role of the artist.
|Koons||The pop star with his pet ‘Bubbles’|
Another example of appropriated artwork is the work of Jeff Koons, known for using imagery from popular culture and mass media in his sculptures and paintings. Koons’s work often appropriates images from advertisements, magazines, and other sources, which he transforms and manipulates to create new works of art. Some of Koons’s most famous works include Balloon Dog, a sculpture made of metallic balloon animals, and Celebration, a series of paintings that depict everyday objects in a highly polished and glamorous manner.
Both Duchamp’s Fountain and Koons’s artwork challenge traditional notions of artistic authorship and the value of originality. It raises questions about the role of the artist and the relationship between art and the wider culture, and both have inspired debates about the nature of artistic creativity and the value of artistic expression. Our next artist has taken this conversation even further.
Sherrie Levine is an American artist who is also known for appropriating the work of other artists, often reinterpreting and re-contextualizing their ideas in new and provocative ways. Levine’s artwork is a direct commentary on the nature of artistic creativity and the role of the artist. She challenges traditional notions of authorship and originality.
One of Levine’s most famous works is Fountain, a sculpture that consists of a golden urinal. This work is a direct reference to Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain, a ready-made sculpture that consists of a urinal signed with the pseudonym “R. Mutt”. Levine’s rendition is a reinterpretation of Duchamp’s work, and it challenges traditional notions of art by presenting an ordinary object as a work of art simply through the artist’s intention.
Another example of Levine’s work is After Walker Evans, a series of photographs Levine replicated of Walker Evans’s photographs. Levine’s work is a landmark of postmodernism, a commentary on the role of the artist, and the relationship between art and the wider culture. According to the Met, it has been called, “a feminist hijacking of patriarchal authority, a critique of the commodification of art, and an elegy on the death of modernism.”
Overall, Levine’s artwork is all about appropriation, and it challenges traditional notions of artistic authorship and the value of originality. Through her reinterpretations of the work of other artists, Levine explores the relationship between art and the wider culture and raises important questions about the nature of artistic creativity.
Paul Parsons is an artist who uses AI to create images of footballers as children. His project, called AI-Generated Childhood Portraits, uses machine-learning algorithms to create portraits of professional football players as they may have looked when they were children. Parsons’s project explores the relationship between AI and human creativity, challenging traditional notions of artistic authorship.
Parsons’s project has generated a significant amount of attention and has been featured in numerous media outlets. Some have praised the project for its creativity and innovation, while others have raised questions about the authenticity and value of AI-generated art. Regardless of one’s perspective on the project, it is clear that Parsons’s use of AI to create images has sparked important debate and discussion about the role of the artist and the relationship between technology and art.
When Appropriation Crosses the Line
Shepard Fairey is an American artist and graphic designer known for his use of appropriated images in his artwork. One of his most famous works is the Andre the Giant Has a Posse sticker, which features a photograph of wrestler Andre the Giant with the words “Andre the Giant Has a Posse” written below. Fairey created the sticker as a street art project, and it quickly gained popularity as a cultural phenomenon.
|Fairey||Andre the Giant|
However, Fairey’s use of Andre the Giant’s image in his artwork eventually led to legal issues once he expanded into selling merchandise with this image. The World Wrestling Federation (WWF) sued Fairey for copyright infringement, as this was an image they owned and used to sell merchandise (shirts, clothing, etc.). This crossed the line of fair use as far as legal definitions and the courts were concerned.
Mark Penner-Howell defines fair use as “a limitation and exception to the exclusive right granted by copyright law to the author of a creative work. In United States copyright law, fair use is a doctrine that permits limited use of copyrighted material without acquiring permission from the rights holders. Examples of fair use include commentary, search engines, criticism, parody, news reporting, research, teaching, library archiving, and scholarship. It provides for the legal, unlicensed citation, or incorporation of copyrighted material in another author’s work under a four-factor balancing test:
- The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
- The nature of the copyrighted work;
- The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
- The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work.” (Penner-Howell, 2013)
The WWF won in a court of law because Fairey sold merchandise using their copywritten material. This was the same market space as WWF and directly impacted their products in relation to the fourth point above. As a result, Fairey was forced to change the image and logo of his Andre the Giant Has a Posse merchandise. He chose to use “Obey” as a reference to the lawsuit and how he needed to obey the court order and has used this image and logo in his work since.
Part 3 will discuss How AI Generated Artwork is Being Used, AI in Other Artforms, and Artists who Use AI as a Tool in their Artwork.
You may also be interested in reading more articles written by Jude Ross for Intrepid Ed News.